Serbian parliament meets over Kosovo tensions

Politicians call emergency session as violent border dispute with Kosovo threatens to escalate.

    Kosovo Serbs blocked roads near the border to prevent KFOR troops from reaching them, the Beta news agency said

    The Serbian parliament is holding an emergency session as a violent border dispute with Kosovo threatens to escalate.

    The crisis started on Monday after Hashim Thaci's, Kosovo prime minister's, government ordered police to seize control of two border crossings in northern Kosovo to enforce a ban on imports from Serbia.

    Tensions heightened thereafter when Serbs set fire to the northern border crossing at Jarine.

    Serbia has criticised international officials in Kosovo and local ethnic-Albanian authorities for this week's incidents, which left one person dead.

    At the parliamentary session, called by the Serbian government on Saturday, politicians are expected to pass a declaration concluding that the authorities in Pristina have "tried through force to change a reality on the ground".

    According to a draft of the text, parliament will ask the Serbian government to "defend the interest of the republic of Serbia and people in Kosovo ... as a priority until a compromise solution is found" to solve the
    situation, which should be done "through a dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina".

    Mirko Cvetkovic, the Serbian prime minister, told politicans on Saturday that "the aim was to create incidents and provoke Serbia".

    Thaci's bid to reassert his government's control over the region has been criticised by the US and EU as provocative.

    The region, and Belgrade itself, have not accepted rule from Pristina since Kosovo's ethnic-Albanian majority declared independence from Serbia in 2008.

    'Verge of war'

    Borco Stevanovic, Serbia's chief negotiator with Pristina, told parliament that "the situation in the north is at the verge of war".

    "Stevanovic ... spent the last five days in northern Kosovo trying to diffuse the situation and he himself went through some difficult things and difficult situations," Al Jazeera's Aljosa Milenkovic, reporting from Belgrade, said. 

    The situation in northern Kosovo, which dominated by ethnic Serbs, was calm but tense on Saturday afternoon, Serbian media reported from the town of Mitrovica.

    According to Serbian media, two border crossings are closed for traffic by NATO-led Kosovo Force (KFOR) troops.

    Angry Kosovo Serbs have blocked the roads leading to the crossings to prevent KFOR from reaching them, the Belgrade-based Beta news agency reported.

    Last year, KFOR forces were reduced from 10,000 to 6,300, but the recent violence could now delay plans for a further reduction.

    Kosovos independence

    As of July 22, 77 out of the 193 United Nations member states, 22 out of the 27 European Union member states, and 24 out of the 28 NATO members, including the US, have recognized Kosovo's independence.

    Serbia's refusal to recognise Kosovo's independence could be a sticking point in Belgrade's EU accession talks.

    Marko Gasic, founder of the Serbian Information Centre, told Al Jazeera: "In international terms the world has not recognised Kosovo's independence.

    "I feel that the US is encouraging its puppets in Pristina to take the military road to create facts on the ground.

    "Because you should remember for most of the world this part of Serbia, is just that, part of Serbia."

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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